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[Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of Boundary Objects

So would it be correct to describe the government institutions and political system are "boundary objects"?
*Andy Blunden*
On 20/07/2015 9:42 PM, Rolf Steier wrote:
Hi Andy -
Good catch! I believe that is a typo and should read "despite a LACK of consensus". Thank you for pointing that out.

I also wanted to follow up on a suggestion that Greg made in the other thread suggesting we look at David McNeill's work. I had only been familiar with his earlier work on gesture, but after doing a bit of reading over the weekend, I found his concept of 'unexpected metaphors' potentially useful in dealing with some of my questions.( http://mcneilllab.uchicago.edu/pdfs/unexpected_metaphors.pdf )

Here is a relevant quote describing unexpected metaphors as a form of gesture:

    /The logic is that unexpected metaphors arise from the
    need to create images when the culture does not have
    them readily at hand. These images join linguistic
    content as growth points and differentiate what
    Vygotsky (1987) called psychological predicates, or
    points of contrast in the immediate ongoing context of
    speaking. Unexpected metaphors, precisely because they
    are outside the conventions of language and culture,
    can capture abstractions in novel ways and provide the
    fluidity of thought and language that is the essence
    of ongoing discourse./

On Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 1:00 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    Rolf, what did you mean by "the achievement of
    cooperation despite consensus"?
    p. 131,

    *Andy Blunden*
    On 17/07/2015 8:45 AM, Rolf Steier wrote:

        Are we allowed to ask questions about our paper as
        well? I hope so!

        For a little context -in our paper, we identified
        particular kinds of
        episodes in which participants from different
        disciplines seek coherence
        and continuity of shared representations through
        bodily action. These
        actions include gesture, movement and physical
        performance linking the
        present material artifacts to objects of design.
        Most of these episodes
        seem to involve some form of improvisation,
        resourcefulness or creativity,
        and I'm not fully sure how to characterize these
        aspects of the
        interactions. In most cases, the participants seem
        to be searching for the
        best words or material representation to convey a
        particular intention -
        when this becomes problematic or limiting - they
        almost fall back on what
        is available - these improvised bodily
        performances - as a way of
        maintaining continuity, and of inviting
        co-participants into a shared and
        imagined space. These bodily actions don't seem to
        begin the proposals, but
        are in a sense *discovered* by the participants.

        I think there is something really fascinating
        about this kind of creativity
        and resourcefulness in interaction that could be
        explored more deeply - and
        that I'm having trouble articulating. Maybe some
        of you have some thoughts
        on this? Alfredo - I know we've talked about this
        a bit before so maybe you
        can add a little clarity to my question.

        On Thu, Jul 16, 2015 at 9:37 PM, HENRY SHONERD
        <hshonerd@gmail.com <mailto:hshonerd@gmail.com>>

            Thank you very much for the sketch of your
            roots. I taught English in
            Puigcerda and Barcelona for 5 years back in
            the early 70s, just before
            Franco died. (He died the day I boarded the
            plane back to the U.S.) Place
            and language are interesting, especially where
            language varieties meet.
            Boundaries. I know mostly from my familiarity
            with the music of Catalunya
            and Mallorca that the speech communities in
            each of those places treasure
            their unique languages (Catalan and
            Mallorquin), yet see a commonality
            vis-a-vis their separateness from Castilian
            Spanish, the national language
            of Spain from 1492 on. I see a parallel
            between your work on boundary
            objects, where individual persons collaborate
            to create spaces, AND
            boundary objects “negotiated” by groups of
            people who live in real spaces.
            I am thinking, among other things, of
            indigeneity, a big topic here in New
            Mexico, with so many Native Americans.
            Assymetries of power. Bullying.
            Testing and curriculum become instruments of
            war by other means. I hope my
            tone does not distract from, nor diminish, the
            optimism created by this
            thread. Yet I think that optimism is so
            precious because of the ground (the
            world) of the dialog.

                On Jul 16, 2015, at 12:13 PM, Alfredo
                Jornet Gil <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no


                Well, you could say that I am partly
                Catalan. I grew up in the province

            of Valencia, where Catalan language is
            official language together with
            Castilian Spanish. Although Valencia (the
            county) and Catalonia are
            different regional counties, Catalan is spoken
            in Catalonia, Valencia, and
            the Balear Islands. Some call the three
            together as the Catalan Countries.
            I don't like borders, but I respect and enjoy
            cultural diversity.

                Standardized testing, and the whole
                assumptions behind it, are an issue

            also in Spain and in Catalonia; but education
            has been so battered during
            the last years of right-wing government that I
            the debate have been more
            about means and access than about contents and
            aims. Which in some sense
            may be good because it moves the debates away
            from performance. But I have
            been living outside of Spain for eight years
            now, so I am not the best to
            update you on this either.

                Best wishes,

            <mailto:iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu>> on
            behalf of
            HENRY SHONERD <hshonerd@gmail.com

                Sent: 16 July 2015 19:54
                To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
                Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of
                Boundary Objects

                Yes, you have answered my question very
                nicely! I especially appreciate

            that you were willing to wrestle with my
            question, despite your lack of
            familiarity with the issues here in the U.S.
            Am I wrong, or are you
            Catalan? In which case your experience in
            Catalunya would take you to a
            different place in critiquing schooling there,
            though not necessarily
            unconnected to yours and Rolf’s work on
            boundary objects. I just met for
            the second day in a row with a friend who is
            the liaison between our public
            school district and a children’s science
            museum called Explora. I feel like
            I’m swimming in this thread, talk about a
            mixed metaphor!


                    On Jul 16, 2015, at 12:18 AM, Alfredo
                    Jornet Gil <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no


                    I am sorry, Henry, but I am not very
                    familiar with high-stakes

            standardized testing (as different to
            standardized testing in general) or
            with common core (which I quickly read is an
            issue in US). But I would say
            that, if (school) curricula were to be
            consistent with the view of
            education as the practice of creating
            conditions for certain attitudes and
            dispositions to emerge--which is what I was
            suggesting in the paragraph you
            copy--curricula would not be so much about
            standardized contents, but about
            human sensitivities and relations. So, I would
            say, no, standardized
            testing is not in principle in line with what
            I was trying to say.

                    I was trying to make a distinction
                    between trying to design someone's

            particular experience, and trying to design
            conditions for the development
            of attitudes and orientations. The first is
            likely impossible. The second
            seems to make more sense.

                    One may of course wonder whether those
                    attitudes and orientations can

            be considered general, and then form part of
            standardize measures instead
            of the traditional "contents and skills". But
            measuring assumes some
            quantitative increment in a particular aspect
            as the result of learning.
            Growth and development, however, are about
            qualitative change. So, as soon
            as you start measuring you would be missing
            growth and development. So,
            again, no. I would not say that high-stakes
            standardized testing is in line
            with what I was trying to say.

                    I hope I have answered your question,

            <mailto:iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu>> on
            behalf of
            HENRY SHONERD <hshonerd@gmail.com

                    Sent: 16 July 2015 07:48
                    To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
                    Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Emergence of
                    Boundary Objects

                    Alfredo, you say:

                    "However, we cannot aim at determining
                    any particular

            situation/experience. The same may be said
            about EDUCATION. We cannot
            intend to communicate the curriculum and make
            it the content of the
            students' experience in the way we intend. But
            we can try to create the
            conditions for certain attitudes and
            dispositions to emerge."

                    Would you say that high-stakes
                    standardized testing is in line with

            your construal of curriculum design? How about
            common core?


                        On Jul 15, 2015, at 5:29 PM,
                        Alfredo Jornet Gil


                        Thanks a lot for the
                        clarifications. I see now why it
                        may be said that

            designers can aim at designing for constrains
            but not for affordances. I
            see that this way of talking is part of a
            designers' way to get things
            done, and that it may indeed be an effective
            way to design for
            place-making, as in the example that Michael
            gives of MOMA. Indeed, much of
            what we report in our study is about designers
            talking about how spatial
            features might afford some experiences in the
            museum while constraining

                        I must admit, however, that I
                        still consider the distinction

            problematic from an analytical perspective
            whenever our object of study is
            experience, situated action, or design as
            situated practice. A more correct
            way to talk is that affordances and constrains
            are the positive and
            negative sides/interpretations of a single
            unitary category. As an actual
            and concrete phenomenon, walking into a musuem
            implies both affordances and
            constrains at the same time, whether intended
            or not. Which makes me wonder
            whether other terminology, such as Ingold's
            notion of "correspondence,"
            might be more appropriated when we talk about
            how materials and actions
            become entangled into particular trajectories.

                        In any case, and as Rolf
                        emphasizes, what the designers in
                        our study

            indeed do is to IMAGINE ways of being in the
            museum. Imagination versus
            prediction may be an interesting topic
            emerging here for further inquiry
            into design work.

                        Another important (and related)
                        issue that I think is emerging here

            has to do with the level of generality at
            which design intentions can be
            expected to work (just as Bateson argued with
            regard to prediction). At the
            level of generic social processes, and given a
            cultural-historical background, we as
            designers may try to make some
            generic situations more likely to occur than
            others (facilitating that more
            or less people end up together in a given
            place). However, we cannot aim at
            determining any particular
            situation/experience. The same may be said about
            EDUCATION. We cannot intend to communicate the
            curriculum and make it the
            content of the students' experience in the way
            we intend. But we can try to
            create the conditions for certain attitudes
            and dispositions to emerge.


            <mailto:iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu>> on
            behalf of
            Glassman, Michael <glassman.13@osu.edu

                        Sent: 15 July 2015 23:30
                        To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
                        Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The
                        Emergence of Boundary Objects

                        Hi Alfredo,

                        I think Rolf may have addressed
                        the question of the differences

            between affordances and constraints in his
            post. The way he described the
            designers as possibly setting up the corner
            with Pollock at MOMA.  It was a
            long time ago so I'm not sure if this is the
            way it was or the way I
            remember it, but let's just believe this is
            the way it was.  The painting,
            I think there were three were set up in a
            corner off a main corridor.  The
            lighting was dark, which if you have ever been
            to MOMA is different, in
            many other parts of the museum there is a good
            deal of natural light (there
            was this great fountain, I wonder if it is
            still there).  The paintings
            were on tripods rather than hung on the walls
            and they were surrounded on
            three sides by walls.  All of these I think
            would be considered restraints
            - pushing me in to the works rather than
            stepping back away.  It was
            impossible for more than two or three people
            to view the paintings at one
            time and movement was limited, so there were
            fewer chances for social
            interactions (you were not going to pick up
            anybody looking at Jackson
            Pollock).  The atmosphere was brooding, making
            it more likely that viewers
            would move towards internal reflection.  All
            of these were constraints that
            canalized perspectives and feelings viewing
            the paintings.  You really had
            only two choices, you moved in to the
            paintings or you moved on, which I
            had done every previous time coming upon them.

                        The painting itself though became
                        an affordances, an object at the

            nexus of my journey through the museum, where
            I was in my life, and my
            abilities to perceive the painitings.  This
            was something that could not be
            designed I think because nobody could think
            that moment was going to
            happen.   So then what is a perceived
            affordance. Way back when there was
            also a Manet room.  It was a round room with
            different variations of his
            water lilies in a circle.  Almost the exact
            opposite in constraints it was
            large, airy, a lot of natural light.  If you
            were looking to brood you went
            somewhere else.  In the middle of the room was
            a wooden structure (not an
            obvious bench), but you realized as random
            colors dissolved into water
            lilies that you wanted to sit down.  You
            naturally moved to the center of
            the room and sat (wondering if a guard would
            come and tell you it was
            actually an important piece of art and you
            should get off).  The designer
            anticipates a desire to soak in the room, to
            almost get dizzy in the
            lights, and included in the design the piece
            of wood that will have the
            perceived affordance for sitting, changing
            your concept of time and space.


                        -----Original Message-----

            <mailto:osu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu>] On Behalf
            Of Alfredo

            Jornet Gil

                        Sent: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 3:01 PM
                        To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
                        Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The
                        Emergence of Boundary Objects

                        Thanks Michael,

                        I think we are saying the same
                        things, indeed, or at least more or

            less. I am quite certain that Bateson referred
            to energy, and that he used
            the mentioned examples (or similar ones) to
            show how the energy that moves
            the pig is not a direct transfer of energy
            from the kick, whereas in the
            case of the billiard balls, the movement of
            one ball is caused by the
            energy that the kicking ball brings. I might
            be wrong in the context within
            which Bateson was discussing the example, and
            I see that your account is in
            that regard is more accurate. But the point is
            the same: you can not intend
            the outcomes of a system by addressing only
            its parts as if they were
            connected directly, in a linear causal
            fashion; as if the whole was the sum
            of its parts. I do see a link with Vygotsky's
            rejection of S-R and his
            inclusion of a third element that transforms
            the whole system.

                        But I totally agree with your
                        comments on design intentions as they

            relate to ecology, and I, as I know also Rolf
            does, also like very much the
            notion of ecology to address these issues.

                        If I read you correctly, and
                        citing Don Norman (whose work I

            you suggest the possibility that the relations
            between design intentions
            and actual experience could be thought of in
            terms of different levels?
            That one thing is to design for what is
            general, but that we cannot design
            for the particular. Is that right? If so, I
            think that Bateson had a
            similar argument on prediction, does not him?
            That we can predict on
            general levels (e.g. population), but not at
            the level of the particular
            (e.g., individual). I haven't gone that way,
            but seems a promising road to
            consider this jumps between levels of
            generality or scales.

                        Finally, I am not sure if I get
                        what you mean when you say that we can

            design for constrains but not for affordances.
            I still see that the one
            presupposes the other; you can separate them
            in talk, but, to me, in actual
            experience, a constrain is an affordance and
            vice-versa. I don't see how
            the road has any inherent constrain that could
            not be an affordance at the
            same time. Of course, if you take the
            normative stance that roads are for
            cars driving through them, you may be right.
            But if we think of roads as
            asphalt on the ground, as yet more ground only
            of a different shape,
            texture, and color, how is that a constrain
            but not an affordance? Or an
            affordance but not a constrain? Of course,
            culture constrains once you are
            within the road and you are driving. But then,
            the constrain is not in the
            road, as you seem to suggest, but in the
            journey; in the journeyman that
            carries some cultural way of orienting and
            affectively relating to its
            environment so that particular constrains are
            taken for granted despite the
            possibility of being otherwise. But I might
            not have thought it well/long
            enough and of course I might be wrong. I would
            like to understand your
            position here better.



            <mailto:iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu>> on
            behalf of
            Glassman, Michael <glassman.13@osu.edu

                        Sent: 15 July 2015 20:32
                        To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
                        Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The
                        Emergence of Boundary Objects

                        Hi Alfredo,

                        I have been reading Bateson
                        through a cybernetics lens lately

            along with Lewin and his wife Margaret Mead
            were part of the original Sears
            conferences)  and I'm not sure that's right or
            I am victim to the "when you
            have a hammer, everything looks like a nail"

                        I think Bateson was arguing with
                        those looking to apply the more

            physical/mathematical origins of cybernetics
            to human or really (pace the
            pig story) and system that moves beyond simple
            physical feedback loops.  I
            think his larger point is that everything has
            a response within the larger
            feedback system that exists but we cannot go -
            what Bateson refers to as
            MIND.  Attempts to create and control feedback
            loops, to try and design a
            system for specific types of feedback is a
            dangerous proposition.

                        This I think is the reason that
                        affordances really can't be designed

            into an ecology, only a recognition of the
            context in which actions are
            taking place (and I say this having no idea
            what Gibson's relationship to
            cybernetics was).  Taking Larry's example of
            the girl it is perhaps also
            likely that the girl could have taken the
            fixing of hair as a criticism, an
            attack, and it might have destroyed her
            confidence.  Both make sense in
            terms of feedback loops, but only ad hoc.  So
            if a designer does in some
            way design that experience into the action,
            even without meaning they are
            taking a large chance, because they do not
            know the trajectory it will
            take.  We simply need objects that are part of
            our journey, part of the
            larger context but not designed for purpose,
            for feedback.  There is no
            assumption about trajectory.

                        I think Don Norman sort of muddied
                        the waters on this, but in an

            interesting way.  That we can assume people
            are going to want to do certain
things in a very general environment - when you enter a dark room you want
            light, so it is possible to design objects
            that meet that need that we are
            more likely to find in the moment that we need
            them.  But I think that is
            very different from the idea of specifically
            guiding feedback loops that
            even take generalized experience in a certain
            direction.  I am thinking
            about Dewey, and he makes a similar argument
            to Bateson with his concept of
            transactions.  Although he does seem to think
            that it is possible to create
            a larger field of action so we can see at
            least local interrelationships.
            But his idea of experience is also very much
            one of discovery based on
            needs at the immediate moment - social
            relations act as a vehicle for these
            discoveriesn(Dewey of course was writing
            before Gibson and for most of his
            life before cybernetics.  I also wonder what
            he thought of cybernetics).

                        I think I disagree with you,
                        constraints are not about the
                        journey but

            about the road.  If you build a road on the
            side of the river you are
            constrained because no matter what, you cannot
            turn right.  Your direction
            has already been partially determined by the
            designer of the road.  But the
            mistake we make is in thinking that also
            controls the trajectory of the
            individual's journey.  The effect of designers
            on trajectories of action is
            important, but limited.

                        The primary place that designers
                        have influence on affordances it

            seems to me is by being able to create a
            unique context for an individual's
            and a group's that limit possible trajectories
            on an individual's journey.
            But we should never mistake those constraints
            for affordances.  I think
            Bateson might argue it is hubris to do so.
            Perhaps this is what you are
            saying Alfredo.


                        -----Original Message-----

            <mailto:ehe.ohio-state.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu>] On
            Behalf Of Alfredo Jornet Gil

                        Sent: Wednesday, July 15, 2015
                        12:38 PM
                        To: Rolf Steier; eXtended Mind,
                        Culture, Activity
                        Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The
                        Emergence of Boundary Objects

                        I'd like to follow up on Michael's
                        post by asking a question: Are not

            affordances presupposed by constraints and are
            not constraints presupposed
            by affordances? If so, I would wonder whether
            it makes sense to ask whether
            museums should be designed for affordances and

                        What I think is clear from the
                        anecdote that you bring about the

            Jackson Pollock corner is that whatever
            EXPERIENCE emerges from being
            somewhere (i.e. being someone at some time in
            some place) cannot be
            INTENDED. And I think this applies both to
            designers and users, to those
            who set things up for you to experience and to
            you, who could not foresee
            what your experience was going to turn you
            into before you go through it.

                        I think that the big issue that
                        you bring on the table (to continue

            with Larry's metaphor) has to do with a
            difference between physical
            relations and social relations, and the idea
            of MEDIATION. Gregory Bateson
            noticed that the relations that are the
            subject matter in physics are not
            the same as those that are the subject matter
            in communication. He noticed
            that physical relations (relations that are
            the object of study of physics)
            transfer energy in direct manners: a billiard
            ball hits another ball and we
            can anticipate the exact speed and direction
            that the second ball will take
            based on the energy that is in the system ball
            + ball + someone hitting. In
            living beings, the things are different.
            Bateson explained, if we kick a
            pig's ass (I think he used this somehow
            bizarre example) the reaction of
            the pig is not accounted for by the energy
            that is contained in the kick,
            at least not in a direct manner. The energy
            that moves the pig is from a
            different source. Before Bateson, it was
            Vygotsky and his notion of
            mediation who would most clearly state that
            social relations are not
            direct, but mediated.

                        So, how can design go about this?
                        If we, along with Dewey and

            Vygotsky, consider experience to be a unity of
            person and environment, and
            we assume as well that this is a social (not
            just individual) category, and
            that how a situation is experienced is also
            refracted through the social
            relations within which we engage, the most
            designers can do is to foster
            social relations go on, giving afordances to
            prcesses of signification,
            without intending to embed meanings. It is
            about affordances/constraints,
            but not about how to interpret something, but
            about going about
            interpreting. I think.

                        Best wishes,

            <mailto:iped.uio.no@mailman.ucsd.edu>> on
            behalf of
            Glassman, Michael <glassman.13@osu.edu

                        Sent: 15 July 2015 18:04
                        To: Rolf Steier; eXtended Mind,
                        Culture,     Activity
                        Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The
                        Emergence of Boundary Objects

                        So after reading the article and
                        the e-mail discussion I'm beginning

            to think there is a really big issue here that
            I am trying to grapple with,
            especially in terms of boundary objects (which
            I admittedly do not
            understand very well).  And it relates to the
            metaphor of the table (both
            as discussed by Larry and Ingold as
            interpreted by Rolf).  It is this, in
            the museum should the place be set up as
            affordances, perceived
            affordances, or constraints?  It seems the
            museum in the study has
            potential affordances for the users.  The
            cultural historical moment
            (unable to think of any other word) of the
            museum sets the context, meaning
            those walking through the museum are going to
            be restricted by the
            historical and cultural boundaries leading up
            to the art work, along with
            the expectations and needs of the individuals
            moving through the museum,
            but they will come across objects/artifacts
            that they think meets the needs
            of their particular journeys. The posing
            becomes both an internalization
            and externalization of the thinking (or are
            they one continuum at this
            point?) in which they both make sense of the
            object in terms of their own
            meaning and needs and also try and communicate
            what they found, leaving a
            potential trails for others.

                        An example that has stayed with me
                        for years. Living in New York I

            used to go to the Museum of Modern Art on a
            semi-regular basis (in large
            part to try and meet women, always
            unsuccessful). I would often visit the
            Jackson Pollock corner.  I would look and it
            would always be meaningful to
            me and I would move one quickly.  Once, soon
            after graduating college and
            unemployed and about as frustrated as I'd ever
            been I viewed the same
            paintings.  At that moment Pollock made sense
            to me, a deep emotional punch
            - the paintings became objects that could
            bridge my rage, sadness and fear
            to the next moment in my life.  There is no
            way a designer could have
            planned this affordance.  It was based on the
            movement not just through the
            museum but my life.  I think back to what my
            gestures, or even posing might
            have been at that moment.  A slumping in to
            myself, an internalization
            perhaps of a socially sanctioned symbol of
            rage. But perhaps a posture
            also that said stay away.  The place I created
            in that moment was one that
            included me and whatever demons Jackson
            Pollock fought with.

                        Or should museums should be
                        designed for what Don Norman
                        refers to as

            perceived affordances?  The table that is set
            up can be one of perceived
            affordances.  What I grab for the spoon
            because its shape makes sense in my
            need/desire to eat cereal.  The focus goes
            from cultural history setting a
            general context - Jackson Pollock is a
            sanctioned way to bridge emotions,
            to actually setting the trajectory of the
            act.  I sit at a table, I want to
            eat cereal, I must follow sanctioned rule
            systems, I know what I need at
            that moment and look for objects that fit my
            needs.  Is the room in the
            article about perceived affordances.  Should
            the museum be designed for
            perceived affordances.  A person coming upon
            an object may be thinking this
            because of what it means in our society to be
            walking through a museum.
            The object offers an opportunity to make
            communicative gestures, such as
            recreating the posture of The Thinker the
            authors refer to.  I have seen
            many shows, movies where this happens, from
            movies from the 1940s to the
            Rugrats.  This is the cultural cue of what we
            do with art objects in a
            museum, we gesture to both understand and

                        Or should museums be designed as
                        constraints. In the Metropolitan

            Museum of Art (sorry for the New York centric
            places but that's where I
            spent most of my museum life) the rooms are
            set up very, very carefully, so
            that in many ways the objects (at least are
            meant to I think) to constrain
            your thinking, so that you are responding to a
            certain period or school of
art, understanding how it all fits together. The table metaphor fits here
            as well I think.  Does the table constrain our
            actions, limiting to certain
            types of behavior (use only certain types of
            forks for certain types of

                        Okay, too much I know.


                        -----Original Message-----

            <mailto:ehe.ohio-state.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu>] On
            Behalf Of Rolf Steier

                        Sent: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 6:58 AM
                        To: Alfredo Jornet Gil
                        Cc: eXtended Mind, Culture,
                        Activity; mike cole;


                        Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The
                        Emergence of Boundary Objects

                        Thank you for your thoughts Larry,

                        I wanted to pick up on your
                        suggestion of the table metaphor
                        because I

            think that's really interesting. I believe you
            are proposing the shared
            meal as analogous to the kind of orientation
            work (or perhaps Leigh Star
            might consider this translation or
            pre-translation work?) that precedes the
            task at hand (in the case of our study, the
            task is design). Excerpt 3 from
            our study might be relevant here, when in turn
            6, the curator turns to the
            researcher, leans in, and points in order to
            create a shared visual field.

                        The curator and the researcher can
                        now orient towards the existing

            gallery in order to imagine future, possible
            changes in the gallery. The
            curator is in a sense extending an invitation
            to sit down at the same table
            to be able to share his vision for the gallery.

                        This shared meal might of course
                        also be considered designed. Ingold (
                        *Making*) actually uses this same
                        table metaphor to demonstrate the

            facilitation of activity as an aspect of
            design - *"Everyday design catches
            the narrative and pins it down, establishing a
            kind of choreography for the
            ensuing permanence that allows it to proceed
            from the moment you sit down
            to eat. In such a straightforward task as
            laying the table - in enrolling
            into your relation bowl and spoon, milk jug
            and cereal box - you are
            designing breakfast."*

                        There is an improvisational
                        quality to the bodily/performative

            orientation work that is maybe not captured by
            the shared expectations of
            sitting down to a meal. But at the same time,
            we can also consider the
            workspace of the multidisciplinary design team
            as designed in the same way
            that the meal is designed in order to support
            the objective of the meeting.
            That is, the, design team must first engage in
            a place-making activity for
            their collaborative setting in order to attend
            to the design of the
            exhibition space. The designers set the table
            with a white board, sketches
            and design ideas, perhaps some coffee... etc.,
            before turning to the task
            of imagining the future exhibition.

                        Lubomir, you asked - *"who are the
                        placemakers -- the architects or

            the USERS of designed/created/socially
            produced spaces?" *I think this is
            difficult to answer because both architect and
            user play a role in the
            place-making process. The architects embed
            possible meanings (if place and
            meaning are analogous than perhaps these might
            be considered 'place

                        potentials') that only emerge
                        through the activity of the users. I'm

            only thinking through this now, so feel free
            to elaborate or to disagree!


                        On Tue, Jul 14, 2015 at 11:28 PM,
                        Alfredo Jornet Gil <

            a.j.gil@iped.uio.no <mailto:a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>>


                            Thanks a lot, Lubomir!

                            On to your question, I am
                            tempted to stretch a bit
                            across frameworks
                            and answer that, the
                            difference between the process
                            of performing an
                            activity in space and
                            developing a sense of place
                            would be akin to the
                            difference between an
                            operation and an action as per
                            Activity theory.

                            Again, we must be careful on
                            the distinction between space
                            as a sort
                            of objective geometrical
                            coordinate, or space as not
                            becoming a part

            of "an"

                            experience (in Dewey's sense).
                            In the first sense, the sentence
                            "performing an activity in
                            space" makes only sense when
                            talking about
                            geometrical practices, for
                            example; one may think that in
                            engineering practices, it is
                            possible to orient to space as
                            space, as
                            a coordinate. BUT still, the
                            experience of being doing such
                            if it has import to further
                            development in the person, it
                            must be
                            refracted through the person's
                            experience; there must be
                            and therefore placemaking. In
                            the second case, we might
                            think of us
                            performing some activity
                            within taking much of it,
                            without noticing we
                            are doing. It is in this sense
                            that I do the bridge with

            versus actions.

                            I would not have many problems
                            in associating place with
                            meaning and
                            placemaking with
                            meaning-making, although I
                            personally would be
                            careful if doing so,
                            emphasizing the situational
                            and distributed
                            nature of the process that
                            placemaking attempts to capture.

                            Hope this helps
                            From: Lubomir Savov Popov
                            Sent: 14 July 2015 23:06
                            To: Alfredo Jornet Gil; Rolf
                            Steier; eXtended Mind, Culture,


                            Cc: mike cole;
                            Subject: RE: [Xmca-l] Re: The
                            Emergence of Boundary Objects

                            Thank you Alfredo,

                            By the way, I should have
                            started my mail with an
                            appreciation for
                            your article and Mike's choice
                            to bring it to our attention.

                            Now it is almost clear how you
                            use the word and conceptualize the
                            phenomenon. I would
                            respectfully ask you for a few
                            more things: what
                            is the difference between the
                            process of performing an
                            activity in
                            space and developing a sense
                            of place. I personally
                            interpret place in
                            terms of appropriation of
                            space in the process of human
                            activity and
                            the subsequent meaning making
                            which has existential
                            importance for the
                            individual. The phenomenon of
                            place is on par with the
                            phenomenon of
                            meaning and placemaking is a
                            process on par with meaning
                            making. How
                            do you position yourself
                            regarding such conceptualization?

                            On a similar note, who are the
                            placemakers -- the architects
                            or the
                            USERS of
                            produced spaces?

                            By the way, I might be
                            stretching too much the part
                            on place and
                            distracting from other aspects
                            of your wonderful article.

                            Best wishes,


                            -----Original Message-----
                            From: Alfredo Jornet Gil
                            Sent: Tuesday, July 14, 2015
                            4:31 PM
                            To: Lubomir Savov Popov; Rolf
                            Steier; eXtended Mind,
                            Culture, Activity
                            Cc: mike cole;
                            Subject: Re: [Xmca-l] Re: The
                            Emergence of Boundary Objects

                            Dear Lubomir,

                            thanks for your questions. I
                            agree that the notion of place
                            has been
                            around in different forms
                            during at least the last 20
                            years or so,
                            from geography with Tuan,
                            technology with Dourish, to
                            the so-called
                            place-based education. I must
                            also admit that we did not
                            work with a
                            carefully operationalized
                            definition when using the term
                            in the paper,
                            but I can of course share my
                            view on the issue and how I


                            For me, as in most of the
                            cases mentioned above, place
                            is a way of
                            emphasizing the experiential
                            in what comes to be socially
                            or humanly
                            relevant. Most simply, and
                            this most of you probably
                            know, is about
                            the difference between a
                            rationalistic, geometrical
                            conception of
                            space versus a more
                            phenomenological one. I read
                            Streek (2010) citing
                            Cresswell about
                            place: "Place is about
                            stopping and resting and
                            becoming involved".
                            This is precisely what we
                            aimed to emphasize in our
                            paper, that
                            whatever practices were
                            involved in getting things
                            done together in an
                            interdisciplinary group, they
                            involved a process of becoming
                            experientially, emotionally,
                            bodily, with the materials and
                            going on in a given situation.

                            I also read Ingold (2011)
                            warning against the difference
                            between space
                            and place in terms of space
                            being a reality substance and
                            place being
                            constituted by subsequent
                            level of abstractions. In my view,
                            experience is not about
                            abstraction, but about
                            involvement. And place
                            is about space as it is
                            refracted in intelligible
                            experience; not
                            about an abstraction over an
                            objective field, but more
                            related to a

            perezhivanie in Vygotsky's sense.

                            From: Lubomir Savov Popov
                            Sent: 14 July 2015 21:55
                            To: Rolf Steier; eXtended
                            Mind, Culture,       Activity;


                            Cc: mike cole;
                            Subject: RE: [Xmca-l] Re: The
                            Emergence of Boundary Objects

                            Dear Rolf and Alfredo,

                            What is your definition for
                            place? How is place different
                            from space?
                            I ask because people use the
                            words place and peacemaking in
                            dozens of
                            different ways; it is just



                            -----Original Message-----
                            On Behalf Of Rolf
                            Sent: Tuesday, July 14, 2015
                            2:44 PM
                            To: Alfredo Jornet Gil
                            Cc: eXtended Mind, Culture,
                            Activity; mike cole;
                            Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The
                            Emergence of Boundary Objects

                            Hello All,

                            I also want to thank everyone
                            for participating in this
                            and I'm looking forward to
                            developing some of the ideas
                            from our text.
                            I think that Alfredo did a
                            nice job of introducing the
                            context of our
                            study, so I don't have much to
                            add. The two aspects that Mike
                            up are also very much of
                            interest to me, and I think
                            quite closely
                            related. I think we treat
                            'distributed imagination' in
                            this instance
                            as a form of place-making for
                            a space that doesn't exist yet
                            museum exhibition). At the
                            same time, the place where
                            this design work
                            is occurring is also
                            undergoing a transformation
                            from space to place
                            as the participants construct
                            representations and begin to
                            collaborate. Alfredo and I
                            were playing with an
                            illustration of these
                            trajectories as merging,
                            though we weren't able to
                            bring it together -
                            so maybe this discussion can
                            allow us to flesh out these

                            I'm looking forward to the

                            On Tue, Jul 14, 2015 at 7:38
                            PM, Alfredo Jornet Gil

                                Hi Mike and all,

                                thanks for recommending
                                our article for
                                discussion, and thanks to
                                anyone who wishes to
                                participate. We really
                                appreciate it! I can try
                                to say a bit about the

                                Rolf and I did our PhD as
                                part of two different
                                projects that had a
                                science museum and an art
                                museum as settings for the
                                design of
                                learning environments.
                                Early on in the PhD, we
                                begun talking about
                                notions of space as
                                central in our respective
                                projects. During the last
                                year, we shared office and
                                had much more
                                time to discuss. We had
                                always wanted to write
                                something together
                                and the MCA special issue
                                on Leigh Star seemed the
                                perfect occasion.

                                The design meetings
                                involved many participants
                                from different
                                backgrounds, from
                                education to architecture
                                and software
                                engineering, and sometimes
                                it was difficult for the
                                teams to advance
                                towards definite
                                solutions. I remember
                                watching the videos from the
                                first months of design
                                work, hoping to find
                                something for writing a
                                first paper. I found
                                different interesting
                                issues to pursue, but one
                                episode clearly stood out
                                from the rest. It was a
                                design meeting,
                                after many meetings with
                                lots of disagreements and
                                dead ends, in
                                which a discussion that
                                concerned a wall in the
                                museum space
                                unexpectedly appeared to
                                trigger lots of good ideas
                                in the design
                                team. It stroke me that
                                something as banal and
                                simple as a wall had
                                been important in making
                                it possible for the
                                participants to achieve
                                shared perspectives on the
                                task and go on. I
                                remembered then to have
                                read something about
                                boundary objects, and it
                                was then that the
                                figure of Leigh Star begun to

                            be relevant.

                                In this paper, the aim was
                                to consider boundary
                                "objects"  from the
                                perspective of the
                                participants' "bodies,"
                                which stood out in our
                                analyses as particularly
                                relevant for the
                                achievement of
                                co-operation despite lack
                                of substantive agreement.
                                Rather than
                                shared substantive
                                understandings, what
                                seemed to allow the
                                participants to proceed
                                was being able to orient
                                towards and perform
                                specific situations that
                                were lived-in
                                (experienced, gone through).
                                We recur to the notions of
                                place-making and
                                place-imagining to
                                emphasize this
                                per-formative aspect that
                                has to do with inhabiting a
                                place and finding one's ways

                            around it.

                                We wrote the paper as we
                                were finishing our respective
                                theses/defenses, and we
                                wanted to do something
                                that should feel fun
                                and free. We felt that
                                Star's work was broad and
                                were encouraged to
                                connect different ideas
                                from different scholars.
                                The schedule was
                                tight, and, although I
                                think we managed to put
                                together some ideas,
                                we may have taken many
                                risks in bridging across
                                the different


                                I hope that those risks
                                taken may now open space for
                                questions/comments to
                                emerge in the discussion,
                                and I look forward

                            learn a lot from them.


                                *From:* lchcmike@gmail.com
                                <mailto:lchcmike@gmail.com> <lchcmike@gmail.com
                                on behalf of mike
                                cole < mcole@ucsd.edu
                                *Sent:* 14 July 2015 19:17
                                *To:* eXtended Mind,
                                Culture, Activity
                                *Cc:* Rolf Steier; Alfredo
                                Jornet Gil;
                                *Subject:* The Emergence
                                of Boundary Objects

                                If my information is
                                correct, both Alfredo and
                                Rolf have some time
                                in the upcoming period to
                                discuss their article on
                                the emergence of
                                boundary objects.

                                So, to start the discussion.

                                I am finding this article
                                enormously generative of
                                ways to think
                                about some perennial
                                issues that have recently
                                been on my mind. The
                                entire discussion leading
                                up to the formulation of
                                spaces into places (and
                                recreating spaces in the
                                process) locks in
                                directly with our current
                                work on the 5th Dimension,
                                which i have
                                been writing about for
                                some time as a tertiary
                                artifact and an
                                idioculture, but which
                                most certainly fits the
                                concept of a boundary


                                Secondly, I have become
                                really interested in
                                "practices of


                                and that is just how
                                Alfredo and Rolf
                                characterize their two
                                installations and the
                                professional teams that
                                cooperate to create


                                And they make a new
                                linkage by referring to
                                distributed imagination,
                                which is most certainly
                                going to require
                                imagination to fill in the
                                ineluctable gaps, and
                                provide us with some
                                insight insight into the

                            processes involved.

                                Those are my issues for
                                starters. What strikes others?


                                For those of you who
                                missed this topic, the
                                article is attached.


                                Both environment and
                                species change in the
                                course of time, and thus
                                ecological niches are not
                                stable and given forever
                                (Polotova &
                                Storch, Ecological Niche,